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CBS, NBC, ABC Win Court Bar to Ivi Web-Streaming of TV Shows

Feb. 22 (Bloomberg) -- Ivi Inc. must stop streaming on the Web broadcasts of television programming that is copyrighted by TV networks, a federal judge ruled.

U.S. District Judge Naomi Buchwald in New York today granted a motion by broadcasters including CBS Corp. for a preliminary injunction against the retransmission of their programs by Ivi.

“Plaintiffs have demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits of their copyright claim,” Buchwald said in her opinion. “They have also demonstrated irreparable harm, that the balance of hardships tip in their favor, and that the public interest will not be disserved by an injunction.”

Broadcasters including Walt Disney Co.’s ABC and Comcast Corp.’s NBC sued Seattle-based Ivi and its founder, Todd Weaver, in September for copyright infringement. They claimed that Ivi was capturing its broadcast signals in four cities including New York and Seattle and charging consumers a subscription fee for streaming the programming over the Internet without authorization. Ivi charges $4.99 a month to stream TV programming to subscribers who have downloaded a media player to their computers.

Ivi plans to appeal the ruling, it stated on its Web site today.

“We believe the court made an error in the ruling,” Ivi said on the site. “We will be appealing the decision in the second circuit but in the interim we must shut down most of our broadcast channel offerings.”

Ivi claimed that it’s entitled to a compulsory license to retransmit broadcast signals because it qualifies as a cable system under federal copyright law. It costs about $100 a year to obtain the license, according to court papers.

No Cable System

“We conclude that Ivi is not a cable system,” Buchwald said in her order. “The compulsory license cannot be utilized by a service which retransmits broadcast signals nationwide.”

Ivi also retransmits programming from TV stations in Chicago and Los Angeles, according to court papers.

The broadcasters said that Ivi may harm them financially by allowing local advertisers to pay less for airtime. The judge agreed.

“By diverting customers who would otherwise watch their local stations, defendants are weakening plaintiffs’ negotiating position with advertisers,” Buchwald wrote.

‘Right to Choice’

“This fight is for the people and their right to choice and control over their own entertainment -- and it will continue,” Weaver said in an e-mailed statement. “Judge Buchwald makes the legal mistake of misinterpreting the copyright law to instead make communications policy.”

The plaintiffs also include News Corp.’s Fox Television Stations, Cox Media Group, WNET.org, WPIX Inc., Tribune Television Holdings Inc., Univision Television Group, Fisher Broadcasting, Major League Baseball’s MLB Advanced Media and Public Broadcasting Service.

The case is WPIX v. Ivi Inc., 10-07415, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

To contact the reporters on this story: Don Jeffrey in New York at djeffrey1@bloomberg.net; Bob Van Voris in New York at rvanvoris@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Pickering at jpickering@bloomberg.net

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